Gotta say, I know this post is two years old but I'm gonna attempt a new slant on this.

Athletes aren't given the commericial time that a musician/actor is given. They endorse things but over here in the UK they're usually sports related things (or in a rare case things marketed for men). Their lives in the general media's eyes for that matter or pretty boring and I dare say an athlete is more of a "normal" person than any of the other types listed. Athletes work hard and outside of soccer, I'd say pretty much every athlete could walk down a street and no-one would notice them.

Musicians lives however are on par with actors. How many actors or musicians have you seen capable of walking down a street and not get noticed? This is of course even with the aid of say a disguise. There's one rare case of a band over here called Snow Patrol who on many occasions have said they can walk around even their home town and no-one would know who they are and they're a pretty big band here (and to what I know branched out into the US but to what success, I don't know). Most bands don't have this liberty and often have to hide themselves although many take a great pride in wallacing about without disguise to be seen.

I think a musician doing something bad, isn't simply cared for because they're a celebrity and it's seen as a way to sell themselves. I don't think an athlete (again outside of soccer) is considered a celebrity over here and for that reason, despite their lives being regarded as dull in the media (in comparison to an actor or musician) to step out of line would give the media something to talk about. A good example is England rugby union player Mike Tindall. Until he got married to Zara Phillips, I don't think anyone outside of rugby would have known who he was and probably wouldn't have recognised him on the street but because of a situation on the World Cup tour, he became somewhat villified/a celeb.

Go figure but that's the UK point of view from my eyes.

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Athletes are never really recognized or well respected when retired. Nobody really gives a shit about Babe Ruth no more than they do John Lennon.

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I would have to say that the reason that parents would rather their children go into sports is because it is can be quantitatively described. If their numbers are high enough, they win,... with music... its all about subjection. That makes it harder for parents to see a childs future, which is why ... children that are forced into music by parents always end up as social weirdos. I go to a university for music, i know how awkward they are.

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Maybe because people believe democracies to be morally superior to dictatorships due to the relevant stereotypes?

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I suspect it's a consequence of the contingent accident that sports fandom is more highly correlated with religiosity in the US than music fandom. I predict that athletes' sex lives aren't subject to the same condemnations in the UK or elsewhere. (Well, then again, neither are their politicians' sex lives.)

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Very compelling topic. My two cents:

Athletes, especially in the U.S., seem to be important to and part of a more conservative strain of culture than musicians or actors are, especially popular musicians, which may explain why they tend to be more vilified when they take a perceived misstep.

Perhaps musicians are indulged a bit more for being considered a suspect class of individuals to begin with? Actors may seem to get a pass, but I've heard quite a bit of condemnation of their behavior by people I know, and also from the TV tabloid shows that report their every move.

But I agree it seems true that neither group gets more heat for their mistakes than athletes, and I think it's due to that conservativism that runs through sports fandom and athletic culture in this country. Whether that harks back to our days as hunter-gatherer tribes is not something I'd care to hazard a guess at, but it doesn't seem any less plausible an explanation as any other I could come up with! I suppose that athletes are seen as a "safe" choice for role models in the more conservative strains of American culture, even though I bet that's debatable in some circles.

As a classical musician myself who is a sports fan, this is certainly a topic I'll be thinking about for a while.

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Athletes tend to have larger macrosocial fan coalitions than musicians.

Religious conservatives and secular hedonists, young and old can be fans of an athlete in the public square (they can all still be private fans, which is probably more relevant for religious conservatives).

A hedonistic rock star isn't going to be in danger of losing a religious market. An athlete does face that danger.

Certain pop stars can enjoy similar macrosocial success, but it seems to me to be a much harder authenticity walk for them. Whereas an athlete can usually counter "sell out" charges simply by (1) winning and (2) not getting caught doing anything repugnant to a large constituency.

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Tiger Woods -- explicitly mentioned in the OP -- does not play for any team. I mean, I don't think the Ryder Cup drove moral outrage.

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The service athletes sell is team identification, and this service is marketed to adults just as much to teenagers. Your sports team represents your city.

Musicians don't sell team identification. If they sell identification with anything, it's with ideals, or with some overall sense of rebelliousness. And people typically stop identifying much with musicians once they reach adulthood.

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Over on Facebook my eBuddy John Emerson notes: "Even when the rock stars were cutting their hair, soccer players always had extravagant hair. Except for the Bulgarian and Romanian teams one year, who had crew cuts."

So, are soccer stars in, say, Brazil held to the "moral" standards of athletes in the US? I don't know. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a difference. Afterall USofAmerican values and norms are not universal, no matter how hard the amateur EPers claim they are.

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Well, except for Stephen Colbert. If there's one thing he can do, is rally an army of believers to do things like save the US Speedskating team; I suspect veterans' aid organizations have collected quite a bit based on his vocal and repeated support.

There's a reason that the most coveted spots for authors are interviews on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Apparently only Oprah rivals their ability to influence book-buying decisions.

But considering the modeling behavior on the young, yeah. Nowhere near the impact.

I also think the primary reason Tiger Woods' behavior was such a scandal is that he was the African-American athlete who wasn't: he wasn't uneducated, he wasn't a womanizer, he played the game of white power. When we found out he was just like all the other athletes, the differential of what we expected from his carefully crafted persona from what he actually did that was shocking.

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Disagree. First, different sports are held to different standards regarding morality. Golf is a 'pro-family' game who's stars are walking billboards for commercial products. Thus, Tiger Woods' infidelities are a bigger deal than the average NFL or MLB player. Musicians behaving badly (and its charitable to call Britney Spears a musician) is often part of their market appeal and again, different standards are applied differently. If the Jonas Brothers go on a drinking, drugging, whoring rampage along the lines of an average gangster rapper night, that will hurt their careers where as its a plus for a punk band. Its all relative. Drawing analogies to ancient times much less primordial man is a stretch beyond.

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I would put forward a different explanation.

A musician's output is what it is; it doesn't matter if Beethoven was a cheat (assuming he didn't plagiarise) or a drugs smuggler.

With an athlete, this doesn't apply: we expect athletes to not cheat by taking drugs, to apply 'fair play' and be courteous to their opponents, etc. A good performance requires they adhere to all these rules (no-one would be impressed with Bolt's athletic performance if he is found to have been using drugs)

This is all the more important because whether an athlete refrains from taking drugs and using unfair tricks to earn an advantage over his opponents is often unobserved (as is the case with politicians btw). Because an athlete's performance can be tarnished by unobserved cheating, as is the case for a politician, we care about their conduct as we view cheating in their personal life as a signal of potential cheating in their athletic endeavours.

And here's some further proof: think about our reactions to moral lapses by dancers - who have the athletic ability of, well, an athlete but are really producing art instead of competing directly as athletes. My guess is that low moral standards in this case would be perfectly OK, as WYSIWYG - there's no chance a dancing performance can be tarnished because the dancer 'cheated'.

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Social and political economic dynamics within hunter gatherer groups are such that physical force is not a viable strategy for becoming the Big Man or Woman within a group. If you threatened me to try to keep me in line, why would I stay? What would keep me from voting with my feet and joining another group? With no property other than what I can carry, no concerns over property rights, no need for the kinds of communal labor often needed to maintain farms (i.e., annual cleaning of irrigation canals), I would have no reason to put up with violence, real or threatened apart form a desire to stay with people I already know.

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If you insist on thinking about forager, then you should think about shamans as well. They would be the "prototype" for today's professional musician. The shaman was a specialist in going to the "dream world," which he did, not for fun and games, but for the good of individuals in the group and for the group as a whole. At the same time, of course, his ability to negotiate the dangerous transit between this world and the dream world made him dangerous. Once we have societies sufficiently differentiated so as to have music-making as an occupational specialty you find that professional musicians have both a high status, and are much respect, and a low status, they're regarded as somewhat flakey and disreputable. Basically, you wouldn't want your daughter to marry a musician, but when she does get married, and you shell out 100 cattle and 250 grabbles of wheat for the wedding, you want the best muscian in the territory to perform and you'll pay lots of 1000 cowrie shells to get him.

By contrast, athletes are not expected to negotiate trips to the Other World. Yes, athletes do get in a "zone" when they're hot, but that's not quite like what shamans and musicians do. Discipline and control are what we value in athletes. The fact that, at its highest level, that discipline and control must give way to utter freakin' abandon in order to achieve the best results, well, we just forget about that. It's not part of the mythology.

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It's basically not true. There are tons of athletes that are not held to a high standard or much of any standard for their behavior. The NBA is loaded with them. Lots of guys doing a different girl from the NBA groupie pool regularly. Generally they aren't selling themselves as anything else so as long as they avoid things like anal rape pretty much nobody cares. However, athletes are much more involved in endorsing products and if they violate the persona they have cultivated to help sell themselves then they are rightfully held to that standard. Even with golf, which cultivates a conservative image we have John Daly. Sure he took his hits for being a drunk but now he brags about it and nobody really cares. I can't even think of counter examples in the music world. Musicians for the most part sell frivolous good times, hedonism and/or rebellion. Their set standard is so low it is almost impossible to violate.

Similar with drugs. For athletes they are either bad for them physically, cheating or both. Using is a direct assault on the very basis of their success or a violation of fair play. For musicians they are tools of the trade. Many would argue that they aid creativity. There really is no sense of fair play in the music world. There was a time when musicians stealing someone else's work would have probably resulted in a strong negative public reaction, but that's not even true anymore, think sampling.

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